This article represents the opinions of the writer and not those of the league or its teams.
The NBA 2K League Expansion Draft was set to be a theater for the dramatic and it lived up to the hype. Hornets Venom GT and Gen.G walked away with a combined three players on their rosters and still managed to send shockwaves through the league.
The day’s events also set the wheels in motion for a variety of trades among non-Expansion Draft-related teams. Two MVP finalists and an NBA 2K League Finals MVP were all traded within minutes of each other. One of those MVP finalists even returned to his original franchise for the same pick he was traded for one season prior.
Never a dull moment in the NBA 2K League. Expansion Draft Day grades are now present, although, with protections and more trades along the way, everything is always subject to change.
Hornets Venom GT: A
Pick #1: Type, C
Pick #2: Strainer, G/F
Pick #3: Mo, G/F (Traded to Mavs Gaming)
The Hornets were handed great cards and used them right. Type was the no-brainer pick at No. 1, which gives the organization a bonafide star to start with. Nacho and BiggWest could have gone a few ways at No. 4, but Strainer is a fine choice. He proved he could score without a consistent point guard in his rookie season, but those days are likely over, as the Hornets can snatch a point guard with the No. 6 pick in the 2020 Draft. Trading that third expansion-draft pick for a 2020 first-rounder is a savvy move, as the Hornets move up roughly seven spots, although, as seen by the haul Gen.G made for ZDS, perhaps the Hornets could have stretched the Mavs for more. That stops them from earning an A+. Either way, the Hornets now have a legit center and a legit sharp and can add a point guard and lockdown defender in the first round. That is reason to be excited.
Pick #1: TurnUpDefense, G
Pick #2: ZDS, G/F (Traded to 76ers GC)
Pick #3: N/A
People can sugarcoat it all they want, but the drop-off from No. 1 to No. 2 in this expansion draft was considerable. Type is a star and the rest of the field was made up of important role players, but Gen.G made the most of their situation. TurnUpDefense was the best defensive player available and Gen.G swiped him right away. Next, Gen.G did not just swap ZDS for a first-round pick, but pushed 76ers GC’s hand. By attaining both a first and second-round pick in exchange for ZDS and a third-round pick, Gen.G now has two picks in each of the first two rounds of the 2020 draft. Gen.G takes an A- for the time being because there are still questions. New players can be hit or miss, as 2019 showed. The Mavs and Warriors had impressive seasons after attaining multiple first-round picks for the 2020 Draft. But the Pistons took a similar route and did not share the same success. Gen.G passed on a few sure things to take a gamble on draft picks. The scouting department will play a key role heading into the inaugural season.
Magic Gaming receives: May
Pistons GT receives: 2020 1st Round pick
Pistons GT receives: Ramo + 2020 2nd Round pick
Pacers Gaming receives: 2020 1st +2nd Round pick
Pacers Gaming receives: NateKahl
NetsGC receives: 2020 1st Round pick
Kings Guard Gaming receives: Dat Boy Shotz + 2020 1st & 2nd Round picks
Hawks Talon GC receives: Bp + 2020 2nd & 4th Round picks
Magic Gaming: B+
The Magic were a team on the brink from the get-go last season. After reaching the semifinals of THE TIPOFF, Magic Gaming hovered around the cusp of the playoffs all season long and had a wild semifinal run at THE TURN in front of its home crowd. Moving a first-round pick for May sets the team up with four of its starters ready to practice together all offseason. Reizey is a star, DT brings the energy and Toxsik is a veteran presence. May seems like he should fit, although he has a lot to prove after his rookie season. There is reason to be optimistic in Orlando, but this also symbolizes the end of an era. Trading the first-round pick means UC Manny and KingCamRoyalty cannot be protected. Magic Gaming has now fully-cleared house from Season 1 and Manny and Cam leave town barely missing the postseason twice.
Pistons GT: B
You want to talk about cutting your losses? One year ago, Pistons GT traded Ramo for the No. 4 overall pick. This year, they traded the No. 4 overall pick to get Ramo back while also moving May to the Magic for the No. 14 pick. From a psychological standpoint, these moves come as a shock to the league. It feels like Adam Rubin and Duane Burton just deleted the 2019 season from Pistons GT’s records. Now, the Pistons can start over from where they were supposed to be one year ago. From a tactical standpoint, this makes sense. Ramo is arguably the best big in the world and building a team around him and DevGoss is respectable. While this is all a wild course of events, the move is a net positive for a team that went 2-14 in 2019.
Pacers Gaming: C
This was an uncharacteristic day for a franchise that has mostly made all of the right decisions in the last year. The Pacers know first-hand how difficult it is to draft right and get equal value to Ramo at pick No. 4. Yet, the Pacers turned around and made that exact trade. The squad is likely to choose a point guard at that spot, as Pistons GT did last year with MrStylez (who they traded mid-season). Meanwhile, the Pacers moved their own first-round pick – No. 16 – for NateKahl. While Nate is one of the most talented defenders and IRL leaders of the NBA 2K League, Cody Parrent now has both Nate and WoLF – who played almost identical roles in 2019 – on the same roster. At points last year, it felt like the Pacers were a championship contender. It does not feel that way anymore, but the draft can change all that.
Nets Gaming Crew: C+
While the NateKahl trade felt a bit random for the Pacers, already with WoLF, the same could be said on the Nets’ side. NateKahl was the team’s first franchise face and most consistent player in its inaugural season. But he moves on to his third team in three years. Coach OGKINGCURT can justify the move though. The Nets finished 7-9 in 2019 and now, with two first-round picks (No. 9 and No. 16), they can start anew in 2020 with better value. That moves the Nets from a C to a C+ here.
Kings Guard Gaming: A+
This organization had little reason for optimism just seven months ago. After a letdown Season 1, on Draft Day of Season 2, TimelyCook was suspended for the 2019 season. Then DJ Layton and the front office put together something magical. Much of the run was fueled by MVP finalist BP, but team chemistry issues appeared evident both on and off the stage. In trading BP, the Kings not only brought in DatBoyShotz, a California native, but scored first and second-round picks while giving up a second and fourth. That first-round pick is the No. 3 overall selection. The Kings now have Shotz, BallLikeSeem, Yusuf_Scarbz, the No. 3 overall pick, the No. 17 pick and the No. 27 pick (subject to team protections). Considering all this value, another trade or two may be coming before Draft Day. The Kings can also still give up that No. 17 pick for WorthingColt, the team’s vocal leader and last holdover from the franchise’s original roster.
Hawks Talon GC: C
Coach Wesley Acuff sent a blatant message to the NBA 2K League: BP is his guy. After going through a point guard carousel in 2019, the Hawks will give BP the keys to ball-handling in 2020. With Rando at sharp, that is a solid duo to start with and the Hawks can protect another player – Arsonal or MrStylez – while only giving up their own fourth-round pick. But with the Hawks’ first pick in 2020 not coming until No. 40 (subject to protections), there is not a lot of wiggle room here. Trading for BP is not a bad move, but giving up picks No. 3 and No. 27 along the way makes it a reach.
Draft Trade Grades
76ers GC: B-
Unfortunately for 76ers GC, there was not too much it could control here. The league’s worst-kept secret was Philly doing whatever it would take to bring ZDS back. Gen.G leveraged this into not only a first-round pick for ZDS, but a first and second-round pick (sending a third-round pick along with ZDS the opposite way). Jeff Terrell and his staff will say no harm, no foul in paying up to bring back such an imperative member of the 2019 runner-up, but the price hampers the franchise. By giving up the second-round pick, 76ers GC can no longer protect Newdini, meaning the team will be looking for its fifth starter – likely a lock – in the early third-round. There will be little margin for error in nailing that pick.
Mavs Gaming: B+
LT Fairley and his staff should be patting themselves on the back for making this move in comparison to the 76ers’ move. The Mavs keep Mo and only give up their first-round pick. Had Mo not been drafted, that is likely the exact move the Mavs would have made to bring back their top sharp from 2019. Of course, one could make the argument Mo is not the talented player ZDS is and is not worth the asking price of a first and second-round pick, but nonetheless, the Mavs avoided giving up anything extra for the move they were going to make the entire time. The Big 4 is set since the team technically had a player selected in the Expansion Draft, it can still bring back Rux or GrantMonster for a 2020 second-round pick (No. 41).